"America's Rural Food Bank"

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To procure and distribute corporate surplus food and goods to help fight poverty, hunger and disease in rural communities in the United States for those with low resources and in crisis through churches, food shelves and other local civic organizations. To develop the ”Blessing Box” concept to activate people in being alert to the needs of others and to be proactive in encouraging, showing friendship and meeting tangible needs of struggling neighbors, friends and strangers regardless of race, religion or ethnicity.

Dedicated to the Memory of
Ruby A. Flodin
She taught us that people were worth more than things!
Learn more about Ruby here


Ruby’s Pantry has a rich heritage as a community outreach of Home and Away Ministries, Inc., a 501 C 3 non-profit corporation. However, its beginning roots extend back to an online inspirational called the ChurchMouse Chronicles which started in 1997. Lyn Sahr, the founder, had been a pastor for numerous years and had decided to take time away from the pastoral ministry and began to write a daily inspirational called “Thought For The Day.” www.churchmouse.net began to draw thousands of monthly visitors to its website.  

In 1999 Lyn Sahr became challenged to take a group of 36 young people to Monterrey, Mexico for a missions trip and quickly saw the plight of the poor in Mexico and felt compelled to try to make a difference in some way. Soon he began to take numerous trips to Mexico per year speaking in churches, holding conferences (Pastors, Men & Youth), conducting community outreaches and working with the church and other organizations there who were helping people with low resources and in crises. Eventually this would become the “away” part of Home and Away Ministries, Inc. and became known as the Great Commission Alliance.  

In 2002 it was determined that to help fund the organization and to acquire donated items for the outreach in Mexico it would be best to become a 501 C 3 non-profit corporation, which is required by many outlets for corporate surplus. Corporation papers were filed in February of 2003 and the IRS issued its 501 C 3 approval ruling letter in May of 2003. Shortly thereafter application was made and approved to become a community partner with Hope For The City, a Minneapolis based organization that provides corporate surplus to non-profit corporations.  

We had received various toys and items from other community partners of theirs prior to our approval that were taken to Mexico and given to children on the streets and poor neighborhoods. So upon approval we went to pick up our first weekly Friday toy distribution in a pickup with a topper. To our surprise, they filled our pickup with food, no toys!  After several minutes of silence in the 60 minute drive back to Pine City from Minneapolis, the question was asked, “What are we going to do with all this food?” Honestly, we didn’t know. We had no clue that they distributed food and we were speechless. But by the time we arrived back in Pine City the Blessing Box concept was born.  

After unloading the food and boxing it “family ready,” we began to call a few people and ask them if they knew of anyone who could use some food.  The first person who responded positively was a local real estate agent who knew of a couple that had recently moved back to town and she felt like they could really use the help. However, when she approached them they said, “No, we are fine but our daughter and her husband could really use it. He is laid off and they have a little boy and can barely make their house payment.” The real estate agent then took the boxes of food, brought it to the young couple’s house and knocked on the door. The young woman answered and began to cry she was so overwhelmed with emotion. It turned out that the only thing they had to eat in the past three days was either macaroni or rice. Sometimes it is hard to tell who is greater blessed, those receiving the food or those who bring it!  

For the next few weeks we continued the trip to Minneapolis with the hopes of getting toys and gifts for Mexico only to leave somewhat bewildered with a pickup load of food. We continued to seek out people in need and volunteers delivered food to families, the tears shed were showers of blessings! To help fund Home and Away Ministries, Inc. we contacted individual people, one at a time, who advertised their cars for sale on the internet and asked them if they would be interested in donating their car and receive a tax deduction for it. One day a few weeks after we started getting this food instead of toys I received a phone call from someone whom we had evidently emailed and he asked me, “If I gave you my truck, what would you do with it?” I said, “I guess we will haul food it in!” And we did. Suddenly we were getting truck loads and not pickup loads and we kept giving it away. The more food we gave away the more we got! The first truck was a 78 Ford Cube Van with only 90,000 miles on it and soon we received a 1997 Chevy Cube Van, a 1993 Ford 7000 diesel 20’ Straight truck and then the 1997 Freightliner Diesel 24”straight truck. We donated our first cube van to African Missions and it was shipped there and is used for bringing medical supplies to remote villages.  

In February of 2005 I met a man in a real estate office who owned an 11,000 square foot building in the industrial park in North Branch, 20 miles south of Pine City and closer to Minneapolis. I made him a quick suggested offer for his building and he laughed. A few days later he called back and said that we could maybe make this work. One thing led to another and we were able to purchase the building and close June 30, 2005. It appraised at $600,000. 

Over the next few years the program began to grow and two 1995 international straight trucks were added including one of them being a reefer donated from Bernatellis Pizza. In 2008 we purchased our first semi tractor and trailer. We quickly learned that the bigger trucks you have the more food companies would donate to us. In 2009 we opened a distritution center in Waupaca, WI which has now grown to 10 distribution sites. In 2012 we purchased a 19,000 square foot warehouse in Waupaca from the Milwaulkee Journal for the bargain price of $185,000. In 2010 three more semi tractors were added. In 2010 two Perterbuilt straight truck reefers were purchased. In 2011 a 2005 Frieghtliner semi tractor was donated by a trucking company from North Dakota. In 2012 a 2005 and 2006 semi tractors were purchased. Today Ruby's Pantry has seven semi tractors, 15 semi reefer road trailers, 5 stationary electric reefer trailers, three cube vans and two cargo vans to carry on the mission of helping people.

In 2012 30 employees and thousands of volunteers of Ruby's Pantry distributed over 9,000,000 pounds of food to over 100,000 families! We have been blessed!


Red Line

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